A summer league near youby Jeff Sackmann
June 24, 2010
All that remains of the college baseball season is a few more games as the College World Series winds to a close. But for many of the best NCAA players, it's hardly the end of their year. They've relocated, swapped aluminum for wood, and will play through August.
Most of the time, if you hear about college summer wood-bat leagues, you're hearing about the Cape Cod League. And rightfully so—it's the best of the best, and you can hardly grocery shop on the Cape without bumping into a future draft pick.
All over the country, there's much, much more. There are college summer leagues in more than 40 of the 50 states, meaning that you may well be a short drive away from seeing some of the second-tier prospects who will show up on next year's draft board.
The atmosphere at these games varies wildly—some teams, like the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League, pack the house and put on a show similar to a Mike Veeck-run indie league franchise, while others use the field at a local college and play for whichever parents show up that day. On either end of the spectrum, you're in for some entertaining (and cheap!) baseball.
Where the prospects are
After the Cape, the two most prestigious summer leagues are probably the Alaska Baseball League and the Northwoods League. The ABL is off the beaten path, but the Northwoods League has franchises all over Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with one team each in Michigan, Iowa and Ontario, Canada. The quantity and quality is nothing like the Cape, but in either place, you're likely to see a guy who will get picked in the first 10 rounds of the '11 or '12 draft.
Beyond that, it's tough to rank leagues. The Texas Collegiate League probably comes in fourth, but many players stick in their parts of the country, giving each game a distinctly regional flavor. In, say, the Coastal Plain League (in the Carolinas) or the New York Collegiate Baseball League, you're likely to see players from nearby schools, meaning you can cheer on your favorites next spring, as well.
Ready to find a college summer league game near you? If you're anywhere in the Midwest, the Great Lakes region or the Atlantic seaboard, you probably have several teams to choose from. Here's a map with the franchises of every summer league I tracked down:
View Summer collegiate baseball in a larger map
Go to one game, and you gain a better appreciation of the system in place to prepare college players for the professional ranks. Go to a couple dozen games, and you'll be ready to second-guess the scouts next June.
Jeff Sackmann is the creator of MinorLeagueSplits.com. With Kent Bonham, he founded CollegeSplits.com. Jeff and Kent blog about college baseball and the draft, and you can follow them on Twitter for bite-sized snacks of minor league and college stats. Jeff also has an email address.